Spring break for you entails showing up at the right time for transport to the airport and spending several prepaid sessions at the tanning booth the week before. You will smell like chemicals and you will wonder every time if the bed was properly cleaned before as you peel your sweaty bod off it. Spring break will be exotic and relaxing and a bit comical as you wait for your dad to give his annual speech: “The orange juice at breakfast isn’t actually free. I have to pay three bucks a glass for you to drink half of it. And while we are talking about it, neither are all those virgin daiquiris you order at the pool. Can we all just exercise some self restraint, please?” While he is policing the drinks consumed, your mom will be laying out by the pool, exhausted eyes being daily smoothed out by the sun and water. You will be baffled by this, wondering how hard it can be to, like, go on vacation.
Younger me, you are an idiot. That woman has spent the better part of a week making and checking off lists, packing and repacking suitcases and buying punch cards for the tanning salon. She has ordered twelve different bathing suits from Spiegel and has sent nearly all of them back because they are too skimpy, too busty, wrong color. She has made sure that everyone has sandals and shorts and tank tops; bonus points if they all coordinate so that we match in pictures. She has scrubbed the house down so that if someone breaks in while you are away, they will not be met with dust bunnies under the beds as they look for valuables and the police will be so awestruck that they will make note of how spotless the house was in their report. If she is to lose everything she owns, she will go down with a clean house.
Megan, I know this because I have spent the last week doing this insane prep work, minus the tanning booth and Spiegel. Every suitcase is perfectly packed to avoid complaints on our trip. The kids will have the right outfits! And they will match! I have become our mother. And I will lay on a couch in New Mexico Wednesday night, a string of drool connecting me to my shirt and I will listen to the kids exclaim that there are cactuses out the balcony and I will smile because I have done this insane thing of packing 8 people for spring break and the people are happy. And well-dressed. I will meet up with our mom and sisters on Saturday, they just starting their vacation and I will make them a cuppa and ask them to meet me on the couch where I will regale them with all the funny tales of the start of our trip and they will begin to relax and actually BE on vacation. The cousins will all be under one roof, all 19 of them and they will all be happy and well-dressed. Our lunches will consist of Streganona in the kitchen, stirring a never-ending pot of gluten free pasta with non-gmo sauce and lots and lots of shaky cheese. Just like Streganona. It will be cooked over laughter and catching up, over finishing sentences and helping kids buckle ski boots and helmets.
Younger me, someday you will grow up and see the madness behind the seamless vacations you are taking, but for now you know only the fun. That is as it should be. That is what I want for our children: to just go and have adventures and not worry about all the cogs in the wheel that have to perfectly line up to make it all work. So it’s ok to be a little oblivious right now, but promise me you’ll do me this solid: the next time you are laying on a lounge chair in Scottsdale, reading a Seventeen magazine you didn’t buy in a bathing suit you didn’t even shop for, lean over to mom and thank her for it all. Tell her you think it’s amazing, the work she’s done to ensure you have a fun spring break. Do this for dad too. He works so hard to figure out the flights and hotels and rental cars. Tell him he’s the best and make a mental promise to yourself to finish all your juice at breakfast. When he gives his speech anyway, because he will, have the good grace to look chagrined. Then offer to take the little ones to the pool so they can finish their coffee in peace and quiet. This is actually the least you can do. And someday when you are older and you are preparing to take your Smalls on a trip (don’t forget the pink blanket named Black and the keloid scar named Steve), try to take a step back and remember that almost nothing you pack in those suitcases matters except your Zoloft and Abe’s propanol. The rest is just fluff in the nest, so don’t sweat it. Instead, take some minutes to be totally cup overflowing thankful for the chance to run away with your loves and have an adventure. Because, man, there will be many years when there is no money in the coffers for jackassery like travel and you will sell the kids on Staycations even while every dang kid in the their class is heading to Disney. And those will be precious memories too because you’ll be together, still having adventures. Don’t forget to suck the marrow out of those days and to write about it because you will forget all those days when
this is me being real.